Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Meme-ing my way through the late afternoon

I'm stealing an old meme from MILP blogger PT-Law Mom today! Why? Cause I am feeling bored and a wee bit narcissistic.


1. How old will you be in five years? 34

2. Who did you spend at least two hours with today? So far...nobody. Pretty much just doin' mah thing here in the office.

3. How tall are you? 5’4″

4. What do you look forward to most in the next six weeks? Riding the train down to North Carolina!!

5. What’s the last movie you saw? The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

6. Who was the last person you called? My parents

7. Who was the last person to call you? My parents

8. What was the last text message you received? "Preliminary temporary injunction in Arizona"

9. Who was the last person to leave you a voicemail? A classmate studying abroad in Israel (we're working together on an asylum issue)

10. Do you prefer to call or text? Call

11. What were you doing at 12am last night? Watching Season 5 episodes of The Office with T.

12. Are your parents married/separated/divorced? Married

13. When is the last time you saw your mom? Saturday

14. What color are your eyes? Brown

15. What time did you wake up today? 8:08 a.m. (whoops!)

16. What are you wearing right now? Kitty heels, jeans, H&M tanktop, Mossimo tee

17. What is your favorite christmas song? Theme song from the Grinch (not "You're a mean one...")

18. Where is your favorite place to be? Traveling with T

19. Where is your least favorite place to be? Sick in bed on a sunny day

20. Where would you go if you could go anywhere? Back to central america, but with T.

21. Where do you think you’ll be in 10 years? Probably living in Virginia

22. Do you tan or burn? Neither (gotta love that Anglo-Latino combo!)

23. What did you fear was going to get you at night as a child? Murderers

24. What was the last thing that really made you laugh? Watching my boss slap his head for the trillionth time a la Homer Simpson's "doh!"

25. How many TVs do you have in your house? 1

26. How big is your bed? Queen

27. Do you have a laptop or desktop computer? Laptop

29. What color are your sheets? Greyish blue

30. How many pillows do you sleep with? 2-3

31. What is your favorite season? Whatever season's up next

32. What do you like about Autumn? The crisp cool air and blue skies

33. What do you like about winter? The smell of fireplaces and Christmas music

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Chasing a feeling

There was this one night... it was the summer I turned 21. My friend Mal was having her summer birthday just a few weeks after mine, and we were going out dancing to celebrate. Mal was younger than me by a couple of years, but that didn't matter, because we were going to the Black Cat and it was Mousetrap night!

Mousetrap, you see, was the place to dance if you were an indie scenester in the early 2000's. Back then you called them "scenesters," not "hipsters," and though we all rolled our eyes when uttering the phrase in someone's general direction, it was an affectionate eyeroll. Of course, those were (barely) still the days when emo was still a semi-respectable genre of music to stake your claim on.

WHOOPS!!! **Nostalgia alert!** Back to the story...

So anyway, we were at Mousetrap for Mal's birthday. It was me, Mal, my gay friend Rick and his way older boyfriend, some random friends of Mal's and my brother JC. Come to think of it, me and the way-older boyfriend were the only ones over 21.

We get up in the club and we're pumped, dancing to all the latest Belle and Sebastian mixed with some Iggy Pop and David Bowie. Hot skinny boys with moppish hair and cute girls in threadbare t-shirts and bangs are packed to the hilt. I get myself a gin and tonic, which I had settled on as my favorite adult beverage just weeks earlier at my 21st birthday party. We were too young (or old) to care about getting wasted. We just wanted to punch the air with our fists, spin ourselves in circles and dance like young white kids who didn't give a damn.

That's when I made my fatal mistake: I handed my drink over to my brother. It was packed and I probably needed to peel off a layer of plaid or something. Who can recall. Next thing I know, though, the portly dude dancing to the left of me has me by the scruff of my neck and is steering me toward the exit. I turn and see that he's got my brother and Rick (simultaneously) by the other hand. Suddenly, we're standing on the sidewalk on 14th St. in the hot summer air.

What I remember next is this: Rick freaked out about how to let his (much-too-old) boyfriend know we were kicked out, and how to do so without completely looking like a jackass. I freaked out because it was Mal's birthday and her friends (and ride) were stuck outside. Eventually we all reunited, and we ended up at Amphora's dinner back in Herndon, laughing and drinking milkshakes with our grilled cheese sandwiches. (I hadn't met T yet, so I didn't drink coffee yet either.)

Why am I writing about this?

I guess because I was thinking about it this afternoon as I was walking home on this perfectly crisp, dry, blue summer day. I was thinking about how there are so many times in life that you find yourself chasing a feeling, nagged by the sensation that you're supposed to be living things in a certain way if you can just figure out how. And then there are times when everything feels just right, like all the pieces are in place exactly how they're supposed to be, and all you have to do is soak in the feeling. That night at Mousetrap was one of those nights. Being out on the town with my friends, getting kicked out of the club just as my favorite New Order song comes on, kicked out before the night has even begun... and none of it mattering because all my friends are right there with me and it's one of the shortest nights of the year so we just gotta make the most of it.

There are times in my life that feel just the opposite. The nights when I find myself standing in a club at 1 in the morning, gin and tonic in hand, watching people get freaky on a dance floor, wondering why I am out this late at night when I would rather be sleeping or sitting around a table playing board games with friends. It's the difference between the times when I am stretched out in the stiffling summer heat on a bare bed, too hot for covers, listening to country music on the tinny clock radio with T, both of us just listening, quietly, together; versus the times when we get all dressed up and go to dinner only to realize we've hardly connected for weeks, and all we want to do is cook together and hear about each others' days.

Sometimes life is exactly the way I imagine it should be. Other times, I find myself chasing that feeling, that ghost itch of a phantom limb. These days, I'm not sure where I'm supposed to be. I'm not sure how to imagine my perfect 29th year. And I'm not sure how to chase it.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

A year from now...

Where do I see myself in a year? Where do I see us? Those are the questions that I've been thinking about more and more these days. This coming week, I have a meeting with the two head honchos at my office to discuss fellowship project ideas. If I can come up with one wow their socks off and they decide they want to sponsor me, I'd have to start putting together an application for yet another competitive application process. (And I thought applying to law school was a pain...)

Let's just say I were to get a fellowship that would enable me to work on a project in the field of immigration over the two years following graduation... What would my life look like?

For starters, I would be staying in the Big City. T would keep his job (God willing) and we would have a dual income. Our families would secretly cry collective tears, while publicly putting on brave faces and expressing their vicarious satisfaction that our lives have flourished here up North. It would mean two more years of long, difficult commutes to T's family on the coast. Two more years of being displaced Virginians. Two more years of expensive housing, small living spaces at relatively exhorbitant prices. Two more years without yards or porches. Two more years away from communities we grew close to and left behind.

On the other hand, it would mean two more years of foot commutes. Two more years of being able to walk to our coffee shops, bars, restaurants, grocery stores, hair salons, doctors appointments, Macy's and our offices. Two more years of blissful ignorance of the fluxuation in gas prices. Two more years near friends that have moved closer. Two more years of living in an incredibly diverse setting and being part of a Sesame Street-style neighborhood. Two more years to develop deeper ties to friends we've met and allow the roots to grow where they have been replanted.

Um, more specifically, there are big questions: do we want to own a house here in the Big City? Do we want to have kids here in the Big City? Does T want to continue in his line of work if we move somewhere else? How important is his being vested at his current place? Will my law school's alumni network get my foot in the door out of this state?

If I get the fellowship, I imagine that the question of whether to stay or go almost takes care of itself. It would be just a matter of adjusting our mindsets to the new development. On the other hand, if I have to take a more, um, proactive approach to my career path, the options abound. Big City vs. Virginia is just one of the issues. Do I look for a firm job? Try to get hired at a legal services corp? Seek employment in rural areas where there is a greater need? Strike out on my own? Have I decided on immigration law after all? What kind? Blah, blah, blah.

I may sound like I'm freaking out, but I'm not. I'm excited and I'm just thinking outloud on my blog. T has been having some (unrelated) anxiety lately, so these aren't questions we're in a position to seriously tackle at the moment. In the meantime, I'm hoping that one day I'll look back fondly at this moment and cluck my tongue and smile.

American Idol & me

Just got back from a night in Baltimore watching the 10 finalists from the 2010 American Idol perform before hundreds (thousands?) of tweens, parents, elderly and at least one homeless man. Thanks for the invite, Mom! Now to bed...

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Lessons learned

Some things I've learned over the course of my day (in no particular order):
- Downloading BitTorrent software onto my runs-like-new Macbook without having a clue what I'm doing will only lead to two things: frustration and a slower computer.
- When the computer battery is dead and I've left my charger at work (and T isn't available), I find myself disconcertingly unsure of what to do with myself.
- Taking a bath is a great way to recharge and reconnect with my thoughts... it just is.
- Sometimes I just need to stay away from T and give him his space.
- If T offers to let me use his Mac charger while it's connected to his elaborate office set-up, don't try to unplug the charger myself.
- When the choice is between waiting in the long line to get iced coffee in the morning or catching the earlier bus to work, it's okay to wait for the coffee. Just be prepared to have to work in the conference room because all the office spaces are taken.
- It may be a PITA to walk the 9 blocks to immigration court to file a motion for the senior attorney, but she'll show her appreciation at my willingness to do it. And she'll notice that the other intern said no because he didn't want to have to move his car.
- When I'm in the middle of a blog post and my irritable husband who has proclaimed a need to be left alone returns to his office, where my laptop is plugged into his charger, it's time to wrap it up.
- Lounging around the house in a bathrobe and a towel is not nearly as comfortable in reality as it seems when I'm convincing myself to get out of the bathtub.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Catching flies with vinegar

Aaaaaaaaand after two weeks of no beer, I broke my no-beer rule tonight. Wish I could say it was for something exciting, but it was just me, T and one of our Big City friends sitting around playing Settlers of Catan.

But wait - that's not what this post is about. This post is to give BIG UPS to my bloggy buddy, Law School Wife, for inspiring me to clean the bathroom and completely scrub my kitchen from head to toe this weekend! It may not have been the most exciting weekend in the history of weekends, but I definitely feel very accomplished :) So, thank you, LSW! You rock!

I spent most of this day with my laptop tuned into K95, mixing vinegar and baking soda, and wiping disgusting olive oil leaks from our formica countertops, trying to ignore the little mice poops I discovered all along the wall that was hidden by the microwave oven and coffee maker. Yuck! My reward to myself was to plan a game night, to just have people over and play Taboo or Scrabble or something... But nobody came, and T and I had to eat all the bean dip and homemade honey-mustard pretzel dip ourselves. He said I should quit feeling sorry for myself because I didn't actually plan anything, which is true. And to make me feel better, he disappeared to the bedroom and reappeared a few minutes later wearing a "cowboy" shirt and too-tight jeans. Who could resist? I had to smile, and then beat his behind in Bananagrams.

That's when our friend appeared, buzzing in to our apartment and arriving just in time to finish off the pretzels and school us both in Boggle.

All in all, it was a nice laid-back night, made especially good by my husband's efforts to cheer me up, Pandora's excellent Kenny Chesney playlist and a few beers. And even though I'm feeling guilty about the calories and my little beer gut, there's a little thing called Zumba that will be whipping me back into shape come tomorrow at 5:30 p.m. So there!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Immigration, vacation, infatuation

Some thoughts...

* Well, this immigration gig is really overwhelming. It could be the experience of working where I'm at, but it feels like every post I've written since I started this job has been about how exhausting this internship has been. I do this thing when I'm really overwhelmed where I just kind of try to avoid the stressor (whatever it is) at times when it's not immediately in my vicinity. Which is normal, and probably healthy, in most situations. I come home, cook some dinner or sit on the couch with my laptop or a magazine, or maybe go out with friends or on a date with T. But when the job is all wrapped up in trying to come up with a fellowship pitch for your boss so that you can potentially have a paid job for the next two years, sitting around and doing nothing in the evenings isn't necessarily the best idea. For example: I should be researching some very specific sections of 8 C.F.R. 287.7 right now. And a small voice in my head is saying, "If you don't get moving on this, you're going to find yourself drifting away from a Very Important Opportunity." I'm doing my best to drown that voice out.

* People keep asking if I'm going anywhere this summer. I keep forgetting that summer is the time for getaway vacations and such. Instead, T & I recently purchased tickets to fly to California in October for his cousin's wedding. That, in my mind, is going to be an awesome weekend vacation. His parents generously paid for our hotel room, and we used credit from our cancelled trip to Guatemala to get the flight for next to nothing. (Yes, flying to Central America was cheaper than flying to the West Coast!) We'll be staying in a luxury inn at Laguna Beach, and surrounded by tons of family. And I do feel blessed that I actually love hanging out with extended family at get-togethers! Well... for a weekend, anyway. But even more than the trip to California... we got our "extra" tax return (from when I realized a big error in our first joint tax return and we filed a 1040X), we just paid off our credit cards and now we are going to be getting tickets to go to Colombia over New Years!!!!!! This prospect is so exciting to me that I could care less about getting away this summer. (Well, that and the fact that I actually truly am enjoying not having any more big plans for the rest of the summer... it still feels so much more relaxing to just stay in town.)

* I miss my husband. We've been so busy running around and entertaining other people and trying to catch up on work that I feel like I've hardly got to see him. Well, okay, that's not exactly true. We did get in a few rounds of Boggle last night and ate a delicious dinner with Best Man and Best Woman tonight. I guess it's not that I miss him (he's only up the street at a poker game). It's that I like him. A lot. Today I got him a (very belated) birthday present that I can't wait to give him...when it gets here. : ) I was going to do a list of things I like about T, but then it just occurred to me that I can tell him those things when he gets home. But I will say, the best thing of all about him and me is the feeling like we're part of a team - he's got my back, and I've got his - and no matter how much we get on each other's nerves, there's a flame there that's been burning since the day we met. I love that I can count on that.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


Gah... the last week and a half has been non-stop. After the 4th of July camping/visiting home/meeting new honorary nephew 3-day weekend, we got back to Big City in time to pick up our friend A for 5 days of visiting/staying at our house so he could look for an apartment and a job since he is moving here for the second half of the summer. That week ended with our loading the family (me, T, the dog and our friend A) into the car and roadtripping it back down to Virginia. With a very brief stop off at my parents to leave the dog, we kept going south to Richmond so T could work on a print job all weekend. The drive took 6 hours, which is two hours longer than it should've taken. And when we were in Richmond, I spent the whole time watching a very active 16-month old and taking my former Little Sister out to see Toy Story 3 & go to a belated birthday dinner. T's print job took so long that we didn't leave Richmond until late on Sunday, and after picking up the dog, we didn't get back to the Big City until nearly 3 a.m. I woke up to go to work the next morning and stayed at the office late so I could meet my visiting mom, sister and aunt at their hotel when they got into the city. After schlepping them around the city for a few hours, and getting us all stuck in the middle of a rainstorm without an umbrella, even the wine and mojito I'd enjoyed at my mom's expense wasn't doing it for me. I put them in a cab around 11:30 at night and conked out on the couch in the middle of an episode of the Office. I fell asleep with my bra on. This morning, I was going to go to work but fell asleep on a chair in the living room and decided I needed to call in sick. Which I did, except that at 11 my family showed up so we could all go to brunch. Then I had to walk them around the Market, which was nice, until each of them in turn had a bathroom emergency. We got back to the car, I drove them to another sightseeing part of the city, we parked, fed the meter $1.50, got ice cream and came back 40 minutes later and two minutes too late, to be greeted by a $36 parking ticket. Once they left, I fell back into a blissful sleep until 7 p.m. Then grocery shopped, cooked a very late dinner, watched more the office and got into soft clothes. And then, got into an argument with T about money. Oh, the joys! I just want to crawl under the covers and sleep for a week. Or more realistically, not leave town again for a month.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Camping with the President (kinda)

Mmm... vicodin brain. Camping was awesome when we eventually found a place to camp. My original plan of camping in the Catoctin Mountain National Park failed miserably when we arrived to find the entrance blocked off. Well, before that, I stopped at a little fishing pond and bought a couple ears of corn out of the back of a man's truck. As we got to talking ("Are you all from the city?" he asked by way of introduction), I learned that the President was up in the park for the 4th of July weekend. "If he's up there, they're not gonna be letting anybody near there." Not entirely sure if the man was off his rocker or we had stumbled upon a crazy random coincidence, I kept driving to the park, only to discover that he was right. Barricade.

As we drove out of town, T said, "I'm starting to put two and two together." "What do you mean?" says dense I. "I think that was Camp David." And, um, he was right.

So we kept going until we found an even cooler campground. And Sasha and Malia surely missed out, because this campground had tree houses! (Plus they didn't care we had a dog, plus they didn't have a no alcohol policy, plus we couldn't see any of our neighbors!) We're pretty sure the camp owners just wandered off the Appalachian Trail one day 20 years ago and decided to never come down off the hill. Check it out, this place is awesome! If you're ever camping in Maryland, I recommend it.

Anyway, fast forward three days and my back is absolutely punishing me. I'm not sure if it's from the camping, or from the sleeping in the car on the drive home from my parents. But it feels like someone has been punching me repeatedly with a fist and stabbing me with a knife at the same time, in the exact same spot in my middle back. So against the advice of my medical advisor (T) I just took a vicodin pill that expired in August 2008 from back when I had to get my molars out (or was it when I had to get that colonoscopy after I passed out unexpectedly in a Richmond diner...bizarre medical history). And my head feels nice and fuzzy, an entirely placebic effect, I'm sure, but one that I'm happy to kick back and enjoy. I'm just going to ignore the irony that I just turned 29 and immediately started having back problems.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

The big 2-9

And just like that, the last birthday of my 20s has arrived. Oh God. But I won't dwell. Because this is a post of celebration and praise. Instead I'll focus on the firsts: this is my first birthday with my husband :)

Last night, even though it was a day early, I had perhaps the best birthday date I've ever had. And I owe it all to T's planning! What I told T is that I wanted an excuse to wear the flimsy black dress that I bought off of a while ago for $36 (marked down from $299!) and other than that, I didn't care. With not much else to go on, he made us reservations for a well-known tapas restaurant in town that I'd mentioned a few days earlier. I got fancied up, he put on his good jeans, we hailed a cab and we were off!

Dinner was incredible. From the beautifully crafted menu (literally... T was admiring the butcher paper the whole night) to the delicious jamon serrano with manchego and quince to the handsome man sitting across the table from me, it was perfect! We stuffed ourselves on crab puffs, asparagus in cream, olives, some kind of fancy tater tots and, of course, sangria & wine. After dinner, we walked aimlessly down city streets until we landed ourselves at an upscale hotel bar, where we cozied into some seats by the floor to ceiling windows to people watch as we sipped more wine. I don't remember much of what we were talking about, but I remember a lot of laughing. And then, we hailed a cab home, where we eveeeeeentually found ourselves snuggling on the couch watching old episodes of The Office.

This morning, we slept in. T "gave" me my present: a subscription to the New Yorker (yay!!) and we ate eggs and drank coffee. Now I have to go, because we are packing up the dogs and a couple of changes of clothes, so we can hit the road and look for a good place to camp. We're making our way south on the backroads to see my best friend and her brand new baby boy, but with any luck we'll take our time and stumble on some great roadside diners along the way!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Secondary trauma at work

**Trigger warning**

I want to talk about something that's been on my mind. It's something I get the impression we aren't supposed to talk about as lawyers*, advocates, professionals. I want to talk about secondary trauma, the negative emotional affect that hearing the traumatic accounts from clents can have on us, the listeners. Except, I'm not going to talk about "us" because I can really only talk about "me."

Me...I've been coping with some residual discomfort in my life lately as a result of the tales being recounted to me by my clients. I remember a similar feeling from when I worked at the 1-hour photo shop when I first got out of college, and occasionally the DFS would bring rolls of films to be developed so the pictures could be used as evidence in parental termination hearings. It's a little different here, though. I'm supposed to be unaffected. As a lawyer we are zealous advocates and guardians of the law. We analyze and deliver. We take raw facts and forge them into powerful arguments. We don't let ourselves be phased by the reality of the situations. Do we? Oops... I switched back to "we" again.

"Do what you need to do," the mafiioso speaks calmly into the cell phone. "If you cooperate, everything will be just fine. You know we'll have to do our job if you don't follow our instructions. You can only imagine what will happen to your daughter." The man gathers his wife and kids, hitches the first flight to the United States, goes straight to customs and asks for his family to be taken into custody.

"Keep screaming, it turns me on." And then later, "That bastard baby in your belly is not mine. If you don't abort him, I'll do it myself."

"Did they kill many people?" A pause. A translation. A nod. "They shot them?" Translation again. Words exchanged in another language. A finger drawn across a throat. "They cut off their heads?" A pause. A translation. A nod. A hand covering eyes.

I told a new client I was going to send her an appointment card today. The panic in her voice when she said, "No, no, no! Don't send me anything, he inspects everything! Here, I'll write it down," it was unmistakable.

I just...I don't know what to do with these feelings. Nobody at work appears affected. And most of the time, I'm not either. When I'm actually sitting there with a client taking an affidavit, or translating, or reading a case file, I'm not in tears and I'm not indignant. I'm not stone-faced either. I thing I'm pretty okay at being sympathetic and respectful of survivors of trauma. I try (emphasis on "try") to treat others the way I would want to / have wanted to be treated. I try to keep a little distance, acknowledging the difficulties and strong feelings that come up, without reacting to them personally. I'm really not a basketcase at work.

But I've noticed that I find myself thinking about these stories in those pockets of time that I'm alone and undistracted...riding the bus, falling asleep, in the shower. Not constantly, but enough to know it's affecting me. I don't understand why I never hear the attorneys I sit in with say to their clients, "I'm sorry you went through that." We're not counselors (aside from legal counselors), I get it. But is it a distancing technique for the emotional health of the lawyer? I don't want to not be cognizant of the humanness of my [future] clients. I don't want to see one story after another and have them bleed together until it's all just a blur. At the same time, I need to know where to draw the line and protect the integrity of the client-atty. relationship and my own emotional health.

I guess I'm not going anywhere with this post. I just want to get it down on record that this is something I'm thinking about and learning about right now. I'm curious to see how my thoughts and feelings on this evolve as I become more experienced in this profession.

* Okay, I get that I'm not a lawyer yet. But I'm getting closer. And no, the clients aren't MINE-mine. But they're my responsibility while I'm at my internship, which is close enough for these purposes. I feel like a tween getting close to her 13th birthday and reading Seventeen magazine.